Suppose demographics is destiny. This graph shows the generational sands shifting from 2020 to 2050, indicating BIG change ahead. Couple the shifting demographics with the COVID instigated #greatresignation, and you have a recipe for substantive change. If you think the workforce is in flux now, wait for it.
Key Findings: Demographics 2020 to 2050
Workforce contraction – From 2020 to 2035, the workforce will contract by about 20%. Within the next five to fifteen years, boomers will be making a mass exodus from the workforce.
Digital-first population – By 2035, digital natives (born after the internet – Green) will outnumber digital immigrants (those born before the internet – Red).
Impact of digital technology on society – Another aspect of this demographic shift is that GenZ will have wholly entered the workforce by 2035. Just think of how much of a shock it has been to corporate life to absorb GenY, the first entirely digitally fluent generation.
Workforce contraction – 2020 to 2035
By 2035, just 13 short years from now, the boomers will have left the workforce. The boomers retiring from the workforce will cause a 20% contraction of the workforce from the 2020 baseline. Said another way, the workforce in 2035 will be only 80% of what it is today. This contraction is going to cause a real labor shortage.
A digital first workforce by 2035
By 2035 there will be more digital natives in the workforce than digital immigrants. By 2050 the bulk of the workforce will be three digital generations (GenY, GenZ, and GenA). Consider how much of a cultural shock it has been to absorb the first fluently digital generation (GenY). How much of a shock will it be three fluently digital generations? We live in interesting times!
Impact of digital technology on society
The limiting factor in technology adoption is the people part. However, by 2035 more than half the workforce will be fluently digital. All generations that follow GenY will be digital natives. There is little doubt in my mind that those born fluently digital will be able to absorb change much faster. The rate of change of society based on digital technology will accelerate in the future.
What type of change will digital technology have on future generations is anyone’s guess. However, judging by the societal change a single digital generation has brought (GenY), one can expect that having three fully digital generations will be a seismic shift in workforce culture.
If demographics is destiny, the graph in this post is staring into the future. While it is difficult to predict exact outcomes, the shifting generational cohorts indicate significant change ahead. If GenY (the first digital generation) entering the workforce has instigated such a societal change, how will three generations impact society? Couple demographics with the impact of digital technologies on those generations, and you have a recipe for substantive change.
I used three data tables to develop this demographic forecast—two tables from the US Census Bureau and Statistics Canada. The demographic data is based on birth year and forecasting the cohort from 2020 to 2035 and 2035 to 2050. In addition, I used the Statistics Canada morbidity tables to forecast cohort attrition between the 2035 and 2050 generational breakdowns.
The workforce is the population aged 20 to 75 (75 may be a bit high, but it is all relative)
Net births per year established the 2020 population baseline
Net forecast births per year were used for birth years from 2021 and beyond
Cohort attrition rates from 2020 to 2035 and 2035 to 2050 use morbidity tables
1970 is the baseline for the start of the GenX cohort
The generational cohort bin width is fifteen years (except where noted)
Immigration levels are too challenging to forecast and therefore ignored
1947 to 1960 – Boomers
1961 to 1969 – Generation Jones
1970 to 1984 – GenX
1985 to 1999 – GenY
2000 to 2014 – GenZ
2015 to 2029 – GenA
Please feel free to contact me, and I would be happy to share my sources with you.
Ian Paul Graham
I help organizations with economic, business ecosystem, and market research.